The last time the NHL did not award the Stanley Cup (barring lockouts or CBA disputes) came all the way back in 1919 — during the Spanish Flu pandemic that killed millions across the globe.
While the 1919 Stanley Cup Final was held between the Montreal Canadiens and Seattle Metropolitans, no champion was ever determined — as the series was halted with both clubs stuck in a 2-2-1 draw.
The outbreak of the flu ultimately led to a majority of Montreal’s roster being hospitalized — with defenseman Joe Hall dying of the flu just days later. While Montreal owner George Kennedy wanted to forfeit, Seattle manager-coach Pete Muldoon refused to accept such a forfeit. Ultimately, no winner was determined — and both teams were etched on the Stanley Cup.
Given the precedent set during those trying times over a century ago, it would seem unlikely that the NHL would chart a different course this season if the 2019-20 campaign is unable to reach some semblance of a conclusion due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, that hasn’t stopped some contingency plans from sprouting up if the league is indeed forced to put the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs in the rearview mirror. One such scenario could benefit the Bruins — who have stood atop the league standings for most of the 2019-20 season.
The leader of the pack for the Presidents’ Trophy with 100 points secured at the time of the NHL stoppage, the 44-14-12 Bruins have arguably been the most complete and consistent club all year long. As the team with the best points percentage at .714 (St. Louis ranks second at .662), the Bruins have about as valid a claim as you could get when it comes to singling out the top team in NHL this season.
Of course, regular-season success means squat when plenty of talented clubs are thrown into the melee that is playoff hockey — but in these unprecedented times, could the NHL look to put a stamp on this campaign by simply awarding the Stanley Cup to the most successful team for the first five months of the season?
Such is a scenario that Brad Marchand entertained when speaking with season-ticket holders during a virtual town-hall meeting on Thursday afternoon. Even though a decision like this would clearly benefit the Bruins (to put things lightly), Marchand did note that getting to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup without battling through the grind of the postseason does cheapen the overall validation of hockey’s top prize.